Bikes in Traffic–Biking Customs


Madeleine is a sophomore at USC. She recently bought a bike, and in addition to riding it to class, had been going on trips all over East Los Angeles. Since biking downtown is especially dangerous, she observed the unofficial codes and movements of more experienced bikers to navigate the streets.


Madeleine: Maddy Hall, amateur biker, uhh for a short while. Recently was downtown observing other bikers so that I didn’t get hit by a car, uhh, and, you know they, the main way to get a car to notice you is to hold you hand out to the left, right in front of the car. And they you just go, you don’t look, which is really messed up, um. But then if the car hits you its their fault. And I went to a bike shop and this guy came in and he was talking about his settlement and I was like “what happened” and he was like “oh, I got hit by a car, like they turned right while I was going, um I think the main thing with bike culture is that it’s never your fault.


Since Maddy has recently started biking around Los Angeles, she is just joining an unofficial community of bikers. There is no organization, but as with all communities, there are standard ways of being, in other words, folklore. You get the sense from her story that bikes tend to band together against cars in an us vs them sort of mentality. This strengthens the biker community. One of their customs, which is folklore because it is not an official traffic law, is merely sticking a hand out in front of a car to make one’s presence known.